“Is being a heavy sleeper a good thing?” A sleep expert answers your questions

Welcome to Stylist’s Sleep Diaries, where we’re taking a deep-dive into one of the most important (and elusive) factors in our day-to-day lives: sleep. To help us understand more about it, we’re inviting women to track their bedtime routines over a five-day period – and presenting these diaries to sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan for analysis.  

In this week’s Sleep Diaries, a 34-year-old mental health campaigner questions whether being a heavy sleeper is a problem or a gift.

A little about me:

Age: 34

Occupation: mental health campaigner

Number of hours sleep you get each night: 6-8 hours

Number of hours sleep you wish you got each night: 9 hours

Do you grind your teeth/have nightmares: I rarely have nightmares.

Do you measure your sleep in some way (e.g. using your phone or wearable): I have an Apple Watch, but I no longer look at the details.

How much water do you drink on average per day: 1 litre

How much exercise do you do on average per week: 30 minutes at least 5 times a week.

Day 1

After eating dinner (which I have with a glass of wine), I do some work on my laptop for mymental health campaign before getting into bed and watching an episode of a TV programme, which I manage to stay awake for. I rarely see a whole programme!

Today I managed to do 30 minutes on the Peloton bike and drank about two litres of water.

I fall asleep at about 11:30pm, before waking up at 2am for the toilet. I must have been dreaming, because I end up talking to my toddler who wasn’t there.

“Today I managed to do 30 minutes on the Peloton bike and drank about two litres of water.”

Day 2

I’m woken up at 6:30am by my baby babbling on the baby monitor. My alarm was set for 7am anyway – I always set an alarm as I’m a heavy sleeper, and I worry that I’ll oversleep.

I go on the Peloton for 30 minutes in the morning and then head out for a 50 minute walk in the afternoon.

I end up feeling really tired at around 3:45pm and could have had a nap (if I didn’t have children, of course), so had a coffee.

I get into bed by 10pm, watch some TV and fall asleep by 11pm.

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Day 3

I’m woken up by the baby monitor at 6:40am, but my alarm was set for 7am anyway.

I have a busy day, but don’t feel overly tired throughout the day.

My partner and I head out for dinner and my Mum has both the children overnight. We share a bottle of wine and a cocktail, and I end up not setting an alarm for the next day as we have no reason to get up.

I’ve felt pretty calm and relaxed today – I’ve been conscious of timings and have a lot to fit into a tight schedule but I don’t get too stressed about it.

I head to bed at gone 11:30pm very excited for a lay-in.

“We share a bottle of wine and a cocktail, and I end up not setting an alarm for the next day as we have no reason to get up.”

Day 4

I wake up at 5:30am for the loo and fall straight back asleep, before waking up properly at 8am when my partner opens the blind.

I do an hour on the Peloton which is double what I’m used to, and I feel tired off the back of it and feel a little bit poorly. It’s just a cold but annoying and inconvenient!

I head to bed at 10pm, watch some TV and fall asleep at 11pm. I wake up in the night because I needed the loo and also thought my eldest child needed me, but I was dreaming again. 

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Day 5

I’m woken by my baby playing in her cot at 6:30am. I lay there and doze for a bit before getting up at 7am and going on my Peloton (I get a PB!)

I drink a lot of fluids throughout the day but given how hot it has been and the exercise that I’ve done I don’t think I’ve drunk much more than usual. I feel calm and happy today.

I watch a film downstairs during the evening and don’t put the TV on when I head up to bed at about 11pm.

So, what does it all mean? A sleep expert offers her thoughts

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep expert and professional physiologist, says: “In your case, if it ain’t broke… Evidently, you’re a good sleeper and you’ve got some good habits – hydration, exercise, positive state of mind – so maybe no changes are needed.

“However, being a heavy sleeper doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re sleeping optimally. Sometimes people sleep deeply because they’re simply exhausted. Heavy sleepers can also fall into the trap of oversleeping – so-called hypersomnia – which can make them more tired, but clearly you’re not doing this. How do you feel when you get up first thing? What are your energy levels like?”

Sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

Dr Nerina continues: “It’s great that you’re getting straight into her exercise when you wake up (and well done on the PB!) but you do have some energy dips and have been a bit run down. So…if you want more bang for your buck, you need to look at what you’re eating after your Peloton sessions and ensure you’re getting a good balance of protein, fats and carbs straight afterwards.

“You need to get the TV out of the bedroom and only watch it downstairs. Can you allow yourself a power nap in the afternoons at some point between 2 and 4pm? It only needs to be 10-20mins and it’s not sleeping but just sitting, closing your eyes and relaxing. This will help to mop up the tiredness and you deserve it!”

If you would like to take part in Stylist’s Sleep Diaries, please email us at [email protected] with your name, age and any sleep problems you’re dealing with, using ‘SLEEP DIARIES’ as the subject. We look forward to hearing from you.

Lead image design: Ami O’Callaghan

Other images: Getty/Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

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